Saturday, March 31, 2007

Spaghetti Carbonara with Brocollini

Spaghetti carbonara was introduced in this country by service men returning from the Italian theater in World War II. It's said the modern version became popular in Italy after U.S. troops began supplying Italians with eggs and bacon. Carbonara sauce dates to Roman times.

I like the dish because it's easily prepared from ingredients on hand in the home. The recipe adapts to about any smoked or cured meat in the fridge. All you need is any long, thin pasta, fresh garlic, any dry aged cheese and eggs.

I first prepared this recipe Thursday evening. I was looking for a quick dish. I found it in the April 2007 issue of Sunset magaine (page 144 in the Northern California edition).

The headline instructs the cook to "Toss and serve." Spaghetti carbonara is one of those dishes where the cook prepares each of the components ahead and tosses it together just before serving.


Substitute bacon for the pancetta if desired. Substitute bacon grease for olive oil.

2 eggs
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided use
1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for garnish
1/4 pound pancetta, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 bunch broccolini (about 6-7 ounces)
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon salt
1 pound spaghetti

Put a large pot of water on to boil. Meanwhile, crack eggs into a large bowl and beat lightly. Add 1/2-cup grated Parmesan cheese to eggs. Add parsley and pepper to eggs and whisk to combine well. Set aside.

Heat olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally, until it starts to brown. Add garlic and broccolini and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add wine and cook until liquid is reduced by about half. Remove to a small bowl and set aside.

When water boils, add salt and spaghetti. Boil pasta until it is tender to the bite. Drain well and immediately pour pasta into bowl with egg mixture. Toss to thoroughly coat pasta with egg mixture (the heat from the pasta will partly cook the egg and melt the cheese). Pour pancetta mixture on top of pasta and toss to combine thoroughly. Sprinkle with remaining cheese and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Cookin' in the Park Dutch Oven Cookoff

Here's information about the Cookin' in the Park cookoff in Red Bluff, California, Saturday, May 12, 2007. Don Mason said those on his mailing list would receive a flyer soon. Email Don at for additional information.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Sailor Take Warning

The red sky over Broadway in Placerville last Saturday reminded me of my sailing days in the 1970s. As a sailor who didn't have a fondness for rough seas, I watched the morning sky for any sign of color. I wanted to prepare myself for the coming storm.

The old weather proverb guided me each day: "Red sky in morning, sailor take warning, Red sky at night, sailor's delight."

When you think about it, man has always looked for signs of the coming Lord. In Jesus' time on earth, the Pharisees and Sadducees longed for Jesus to prove that He was the Messiah. Jesus said in one encounter that they had the signs of the messiah. All they had to do was read the existing signs.

Then the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and testing Him asked that He would show them a sign from heaven. He answered and said to them, “When it is evening you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red’; and in the morning, ‘It will be foul weather today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ Hypocrites! You know how to discern the face of the sky, but you cannot discern the signs of the times. A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.” And He left them and departed (Matthew 16:1-4).
Like the Pharisees and Sadducees, we have today many signs that point to Jesus. All we have to do is read them. Like the young sailor who searches the sky each morning for any sign of a coming storm, Jesus tells us all we have to do is look for the "sign of the prophet Jonah."

Monday, March 26, 2007

A Night at the Races

My friends and I watched the 410 cubic-inch powered sprint car races at the Placerville Speedway last Saturday. In one of the early qualification heats, Brandon Wimmer guides his car into the turn. Wimmer won the evening's 30-lap main event in a contriversial pass on the last lap when he collided with driver Andrew Gregg.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Crown of the Peavine Ridge Forest

This impressive stand of conifers guards the southern entrance to the Crystal Basin in Eldorado National Forest. Ice House Road marks the lower end of the grove. This stand is one of many survived the Cleveland Fire along the southern slope of Peavine Ridge. Here's what the U.S Forest Service had to say about these survivors:
Within the fire perimeter, a few areas of large trees survived the conflagration and the living trees stand in stark contrast with their surroundings. Activities that began some 13 years previous had made the difference. In 1979, about 150 acres near the Cleveland Corral Information Station had been prescribed burned with repeat burning in 1981. A 30 acre stand of trees was prescribed burned for a third time in the Spring prior to the Cleveland Fire. Amazingly, when the 100 foot tall flames burning in the crowns of the neighboring trees approached this stand, without the buildup of dead woody material on the ground, the flames dropped to the ground and left the larger trees alive (via
The fire grew from a humble five-foot diameter fire when reported to a crown fire that danced along the tree tops withing minutes on September 29, 1992. The fire claimed the lives of two pilots. It wouldn't be declared controlled until October 14 and burned 22,485 acres along U.S. Highway 50 in the vicinity of Riverton.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Sausage Gravy on Biscuits

I found another sausage gravy recipe this afternoon while cleaning for company. I copied it from Cooking from Quilt Country: Hearty Recipes from Amish and Mennonite Kitchens by Marcia Adams (Clarkson Potter, 1988, 224 pages).

I thought a family-sized recipe would nicely round out the collection here at 'Round the Chuckbox. Except for Frank's gravy, most recipes have been for quantity cooking. Other sausage gravy recipes on 'Round the Chuckbox:

Frank's Hearty Skillet Breakfast 2005 -- and 2006
Dave's Scratch Country Gravy -- makes 3 to 4 gallons
Independence Day Country Breakfast -- feeding 160 at summer camp
Navy Creamed Beef -- 100 portions of SOS


A sweet, herbal aroma will waft from Adam's country gravy as it simmers. Omit nutmeg and poultry seasoning for a traditional savory gravy. Or try ground coriander in their place. Double the flour for thick gravy.

I pound sage-flavored bulk sausage, as lean as possible
2 tablespoons finely minced onion
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 quart milk
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg, rounded
1/4 teaspoon poultry seasoning, rounded
Dash of Worcestershire sauce
Dash of Tabasco
18 large baking powder biscuits

Crumble sausage into a large cast iron skillet and saute over medium-high heat, breaking the meat into small pieces as it cooks. Don't brown or crisp. When the meat is about three-quarters done, add onion and cook until the onion is transparent.

Drain all but 2 tablespoons of the meat drippings. Stir in flour and cook over medium-low heat for 6 or 7 minutes, or until flour turns golden and bubbles up. Pour in the milk at once and add seasonings. Cook and stir until mixture thickens. Check seasoning.

Place at least 3 biscuits halves on each plate and top with sausage gravy. Makes about 1-1/2 quarts gravy. Serves 6 to 12.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Seagoing Chef Sails to Alanta TV Kitchen

ATLANTA (March 16, 2007) - Sailors from USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) stand behind local Atlanta WAGA Fox 5 morning anchor Suchita Vadlamani and Rear Adm. Frank Drennan, Commander Submarine Groups 9 and 10, while Culinary Specialist 1st Class Maria Velo demonstrates her culinary skills before a local television audience. Vinson Sailors visited Atlanta and surrounding areas as part of Fleet Week and to commemorate the aircraft carrier's Georgia ties with the ship's namesake of former congressman Carl Vinson. USS Carl Vinson is currently undergoing her scheduled Refueling Complex Overhaul (RCOH) at Northrop Grumman Newport News shipyard.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Candice Villarreal.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

BCHC Rendezvous 2007 10th Annual Dutch Oven Cooking Competition

The BCHC Rendezvous 2007 10th Annual Dutch Oven Cooking Competition will be held on Sunday, March 25, 2007, at the Turlock, California, county fairgrounds.

THEME: "Real Camp Cooking" with an eye toward "Realistic & Practical"
Canned & Packaged Foods Encouraged
Pre-boiled Foods Allowed (Rice, Noodles, Potatoes etc)
19th Century Costumes Encouraged but “ANY” Costume will Accumulate Points

Children’s Competition will be Added with Enough Interest
AMATEUR Division is 2 or Less Wins in Previous Dutch oven Competitions; 1 Pot Any Dish
PROFESSIONAL Division is 3 or More Wins in Previous Dutch oven Competitions or Paid Catering Dutch Oven; 2 Pots

Main Dish must Include a MEAT/PROTEIN Ingredient & Any Dish



AWARDS @ 1 pm
Bragging Rights Perpetual Trophy & Dutch Oven Equipment Prizes
2nd & 3rd Place Winners TO BE ANNOUNCED
Entry Fee: $20 for Single Over 18 + $5 for Each Additional Member up to a Total of 6
Must Have Detailed Recipes to Judges by Noon

RECIPES Included in Upcoming BCHC Dutch oven Cook Book

ENTRY FEE: $20.00 per team

DATE & SCHEDULE: The Cook-Off will be held on Sunday, March 25, 2007
Check in: 8:00 a.m. – 9:10 a.m. Cooks' Meeting: 9:15 a.m. (draw for presentation order)
Cooking time: 8:00 a.m. To 12:30 p.m. Awards Presentation: 1:00 p.m.

LOCATION: The Cook-Off will take place at the Stanislaus County Fairgrounds, Turlock, California, in SA (Shaded Area)

CATEGORIES: Amateur Division is a ONE POT ANY DISH. Professional Division is a ONE POT
MAIN DISH and a ONE POT ANY DISH (2 pot total); the main dish recipe must include a MEAT/PROTEIN INGREDIENT.

THE COOK-OFF WILL PROVIDE: Basic fire pits if needed and notified prior to Rendezvous, for each team, kitchen facilities for clean up, judges and wonderful prizes. You may provide your own fire pit as long as it protects the ground from heat damage.

CONTESTANTS WILL PROVIDE: Dutch Ovens, culinary water, charcoal, lighter fluid, cooking utensils, all food and other essential items necessary to prepare their recipe(s).

TEAMS: Contestant teams will consist of 1 to 6 BCHC members. One member must be over the age of 18 and all others over the age of 12. Spectators are welcome but only team members will be allowed inside the Cook-Off area.

DRESS: Dress should reflect "19th century attire" but "Any" Costume will garner points.

JUDGING: Team contestants will be judged in one of two divisions: Amateur or Professional. Professionals are team members who have been paid to prepare dutch oven meals or who have won 3 or more Dutch Oven cooking events (honor system). Entries will be judged on aroma, taste, practical (camp friendly), cooking techniques, spectator interaction & costumes. Practical & realistic ingredients are acceptable. No pre-cooked items except those requiring boiling only (noodles, rice, etc). A judging criteria sheet will be made available to all entrants.

RECIPES: All recipes must be included with your Entry Form and Entry Fee.

RECIPE RELEASE: Your names, photograph and/or recipe may be selected for use by various media covering these events as well as future Dutch Oven Cook-Offs. Your entry in the Rendezvous 2007 Dutch Oven Cook-Off establishes your agreement for the release of the same and their use by the Cook-off Committee, the Cook-Off sponsors, and the media.

PRIZES: Amateur Division - 1st place will receive Equipment; 2nd and 3rd places to be announced. Professional Division – Equipment, bragging rights to the perpetual trophy; 2nd & 3rd places to be announced.

HEALTH & SAFETY: Contestants are solely responsible for the proper selection, storage and refrigeration (if necessary) of all ingredients, the sanitation of their cooking area, and the preparation of foods that are safe for human consumption. Aside from a simple rope barrier separating cooking and spectator areas, responsibility for safety of contestants and spectators rests solely with the contestants. Safe use of fires, other heat sources and cooking equipment is the responsibility of the individual contestants.

COOK-OFF COMMITTEE: Debra Mason, (209) 545-3005 and Rudy Dezzani, (209) 538-1296

FOOD SAMPLE DISTRIBUTION: In so much as there are strict laws governing the distribution of food to the general public, the BCHC Dutch Oven Cook-Off Committee and Rendezvous 2007 Committee do not sanction , endorse, or encourage the distribution of "samples" of any food to the general public. Contestants who wish to give samples must provide their own serving utensils and sample cup containers.

DISCLAIMER: Judges' decisions on contestants' scores and the Cook-Off Committee's decisions on policies and procedures are final. Complete contestant rules will be distributed to all Cook-Off teams at the Cook-Off and are available upon request.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Army Chefs from Fort Bliss Claim Title

FORT LEE, Va. - Soldier-chefs from Fort Bliss, Texas claimed the Installation of the Year title at the 32nd Annual U.S. Army Culinary Arts Competition.

Fort Bliss team members and winners in other categories were recognized at an awards ceremony held today concluding the two-week long competition.

Team U.S. Army, Europe placed second followed by Fort Stewart, Ga. rounding out third in the Installation of the Year competition. This year's competition was extremely close with less than 2/10ths of one point deciding this year's winners.

Winners in the other major competition categories were:

  • Senior Army Chef of the Year: Staff Sgt. Nolan Kniss, Team Pentagon
  • Junior Army Chef of the Year: Pvt. 1st Class Robert Capazzi, Fort Bliss, Texas Field
  • Cooking Competition: 1st - Fort Bliss, Texas; 2nd - Fort Bragg, NC; 3rd - Team Hawaii
  • Student Team Skills Competition: Team Korea
Winners in special categories were:

  • Best Exhibit Cold Food Buffet: Staff Sgt. Monica Roberts, Team Korea
  • Best Exhibit Hot Food Shown Cold: Sgt. 1st Class Bryan Nixon, Fort Bragg, N.C.
  • Best Exhibit in Pastry and Confection: Pvt. 1st Class Robert Capazzi, Fort Bliss, Texas
  • Best Exhibit in Culinary Showpiece: Spec. Laron Smith, Fort Bliss, Texas
  • Special Judges Award Most Artistic Centerpiece: Spec. Laron Smith, Fort Bliss, Texas
  • Best Team Buffet Table Exhibit: Team Korea
  • Best in Class - Contemporary Cooking: Master Sgt. Mark Morgan, Fort Benning, Ga./75th Ranger Regiment
  • Best in Class - Contemporary Pastry: Spec. Leia Heeter, Team Europe
  • Best Two Member Team, Nutritional Hot Food Challenge: Team Europe Baron H. Garland
  • Culinary Knowledge Bowl: 1st - Team Alaska, 2nd - Team Hawaii, 3rd - Fort Carson, Co.
  • Best Centerpiece in Ice: Sgt. 1st Class David Russ, Sgt. 1st Class Andre Rush and Cpl. Robert Lough, Fort Bragg, N.C.
Fort Lee is the host for the most prestigious culinary competition in the military. The competitors are Soldiers first and culinary artists second with many of this year's competitors serving in combat operations overseas.

Dutch Oven Cooking Newsletter Extra

Here's an extra issue of Don Mason's Dutch Oven cooking newsletter:

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Dutch Oven Cooking For Large Groups

Ron H. Daumn of the Seattle area spreads a layer of hot coals on a pizza pan. The Scout camp features a unique Dutch oven cooking platform. A bed of river rock and sand protect the wood table. The pizza pans provide a solid surface for the Dutch ovens.

Ron recently cooked a Dutch oven meal for Scout Masters at Camp Pigott of the Chief Seattle Council, near Lake Roesiger, Washington.

He used nine Dutch ovens to feed 45 Scout Masters and camp staff one Friday afternoon. He designed his menu around seven regular and two deep ovens. Ron figures each standard oven will hold enough portions for eight to 10 persons and the deep-style oven will feed 10 to 12.

Here's the menu:
Rattlesnake with Wild Rice (Tastes Just Like Chicken) -- 2 ovens
Shepherds Pie -- 2 ovens
Mountain Man Stew -- 1 deep oven
Broccoli Au Gratin -- 1 deep oven
Green Bean Casserole -- 1 oven
Dutch Apple Cobbler -- 1 oven
Bread Pudding -- 1 oven
A photo essay gives detailed instructions to cook the meal. Access the lead page (of 14 webpages) here. The five or six pictures will help the novice and expert prepare a Dutch oven meal for a larger group.

Friday, March 09, 2007

No Soul at Starbucks

One of the results has been stores that no longer have the soul of the past and reflect a chain of stores vs. the warm feeling of a neighborhood store. Some people even call our stores sterile, cookie cutter, no longer reflecting the passion our partners feel about our coffee. In fact, I am not sure people today even know we are roasting coffee. You certainly can't get the message from being in our stores. The merchandise, more art than science, is far removed from being the merchant that I believe we can be and certainly at a minimum should support the foundation of our coffee heritage.

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz

Well, duh!

Does anyone really believe that Seattle-based Starbucks Coffee Company, which has expanded to 13,000 locations worldwide in the past decade, can maintain the look and feel of the quirky neighborhood coffee shop?

Instead of focusing on the sensual experience inherent in buying a robust cup of coffee, Starbucks made a series on business decisions that "have lead to the watering down of the Starbucks experience," said Schultz.

Coffee bins and labor intensive espresso machines gave way to push-button coffee makers and "flavor locked packaging." Theater gave way to basistas who no longer have have a "visual sight line (to) the customer."

"The loss of aroma -- perhaps the most powerful non-verbal signal we had in our stores," said Schultz in an internal memo leaked on the Starbucks Gossip Blog. "The loss of our people scooping fresh coffee from the bins and grinding it fresh in front of the customer, and once again stripping the store of tradition and our heritage?"

Starbucks is fast food. It's the McDonald's of coffee. Like hamburger giant, Starbucks has standardized every aspect of the specialty coffee business.

In the 20 years since Schultz and his inverstors purchased Starbucks, the corporate "cookie cutter" has stamped out the company's passion for coffee.

In its drive to give customers the same coffee drinking experience around the world, small, independent coffee shops are attracting loyal Starbucks customers, a development that "must be eradicated."

And now, competition has come from an unlikely corner of the fast food market.

"Hoping that consumers are fed up with asking Starbucks for 'double-caramel skim half-caf macchiato' before they’ve even had their jolt of joe," said the Consumer Reports website, "Burger King, Dunkin’ Donuts, and McDonald’s have been boosting their coffee cachet."

McDonal's cup of coffee beat out Starbucks on two fronts -- price and flavor.

It seems the morning coffee crowd would rather sip a "desent and moderately strong" cup than one that's "bitter enough to make your eyes water instead of open," said Consumer Reports.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Alder Ridge Lookout, Part II

Internal conflict between desiring solitude and craving the company of others has plagued me since childhood. Give me a good book at a noisy party, and I'll homestead the couch. I may be drawn into an occasional conversation. But, in the end, the book will win.

That's why Alder Ridge Lookout appeals. The well-groomed grounds of the lookout gives me the chance to read and write in notebook in solitude. I haven't seen anyone else at the lookout my four or five trips to the top.

I'd love to see the Forest Service establish a cabin rental at Alder Ridge like the one at Robbs Hut (PDF file), about 15 or 20 miles north. Family and a few friends would provide conversation and fellowship. And there are plenty of nearby rocks when solitude needed.

This is the residence at Alder Ridge Lookout in Eldorado National Forest from the lookout cab. The lookout sits a top a plateau at the highest point on Alder Ridge. The ridge stands guard over the confluence of Alder Creek (above in the photo) and South Fork of the American River. The lookout was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1936.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Lessons in Digital Photography

By the time I returned to the truck last President's Day, I realized that I had shot over 100 digital pictures of Alder Ridge Lookout in ISO 1600.

In the past, I've taught myself to watch the different exposure settings and to make sure I framed the picture to my liking. This day I forgot to change the ISO back to 100 or 200 after shooting low-light pictures the night before.

I've developed a mental checklist that I run through each time I get the camera out of my daypack. And I've shot several hundred test pictures so I can test the result as I learn to adjust aperture, shutter speed, ISO, etc. Normally, I reset each setting to a default to avoid problems like this one.


This 60-foot Aermotor lookout tower was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1936. Situated at 6,687 feet above sea level, the tower overlooks the South Fork of the American River. A 2004 U.S Forest Service Passport in Time project was planned to restore the cabin for use a rental.

The single-car garage and residence were painted within the past two or three years. To this point, the lookout has not been offered for rent by the Forest Service.